On Monday I wrote about an Above the Law article that portrayed Mississippians as dumb. I wasn’t a fan.

But my biggest complaint was the article’s suggestion that there is a shortage of attorneys in Mississippi:

Mississippi is a state that desperately needs attorneys. According to the Mississippi Access To Justice Commission, almost 700,000 people in Mississippi live below the poverty line, and the state has only “one legal services lawyer per every 21,000 eligible individuals.” Poor, rural, with a heavy African-American population and civil rights problems that curiously seem to persist despite what Chief Justice Roberts wrote in Shelby, the state needs more competent attorneys, and that’s not something that gets fixed by lowering standards — it’s something that’s fixed by investing two decades into growing students more prepared to enter law school. [emphasis added].

The statement that the state needs more attorneys is wrong. The whole purpose of the Mississippi Access to Justice Commission is to figure out how to better provide legal representation to people who can’t afford to pay a lawyer. The state doesn’t need more lawyers. It needs more lawyers who can work for poor people who can’t pay them.

With 700,000 (of a population of 3 million) living below the poverty line, who is going to pay all these additional competent attorneys? There isn’t enough paying legal work for the competent attorneys we have now.

Mississippi needs more legal services lawyers. But that’s not happening. President Trump’s proposed budget call of eliminating the entire budget for Legal Services Corporation. Mississippi will go to zero legal services lawyers for everyone.

The reason there are legal services lawyers is because the clients can’t pay. If the clients could pay, we wouldn’t need any legal services lawyers.

I’ve been hearing lately the suggestion that law school graduates should hang up their shingles in rural towns. People who make this suggestion have no idea what they are talking about.

Here’s the first thing everyone needs to get straight when they tell someone to open a law practice: you can LOSE money.

Law practices have overhead. That overhead applies even when you don’t make a dime. Rent, phones, computers, internet, bar dues, health insurance, malpractice insurance, office supplies, etc… This adds up even when you have no employees. I don’t see how anyone could run a practice for less than $5,000 per month in overhead.

And that’s all before you pay yourself a dime to cover your personal overhead of food, shelter, clothing and transportation.

No one ever talks about the people who start their own law practice, but go out of business. When I contemplated leaving Baker Donelson, my banker tried to talk me out of it. He had a bunch of clients who tried it and failed, leaving themselves a bunch of debt from the failed venture. That was in 2002 when it was much less risky to start a practice than it is today.

Running your own business is a math problem. If the math doesn’t work–the business will fail. People who have never run their own law practice should not tell people how viable it is.

Otherwise, anyone can make any goofy suggestion they want to. So here’s my list of suggested career moves that are as viable as a private practice serving clients who can’t pay you:

  • become the next John Grisham and write bestselling legal thrillers;
  • quarterback of a NFL team;
  • country music star;
  • actor;
  • assassin;
  • open a nightclub in a rural town;
  • open a 5-star restaurant and/or hotel in a rural town;
  • go to medical school and open a medical practice in a rural town;
  • win the lottery; and
  • get rich quick, make a lot of money and retire at 40.